Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Wim Swaan photograph collection
Date (inclusive): 1951-1995
Collection number: 96.P.21
60 linear ft.
Getty Research Institute
Special Collections and Visual Resources
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, CA
Abstract: A comprehensive collection of ca. 48,000 photographic prints, transparencies, and negatives in black and white and color by
self-taught photographer and practicing architect who traveled widely, documenting the art, architecture, and landscape
ancient and disappearing cultures in the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Western United States. Also
included are some letters with publishers, agents, colleagues, and friends, sales accounts, a manuscript, some research notes,
and a copy of his master's thesis.
Language: Collection material in English
Open for use by qualified researchers.
Wim Swaan photograph collection, 1951-1995, Research Library, The Getty Research Institute, Accession no. 96.P.21.
Gift of the Willem A. Swaan Estate, received 1996. One binder of images of Latin American sites received in 1999. One box
of images of Latin American sites received in 2000.
Collection received in 1996 was processed by Lynda Bunting in 1998. Two boxes of material received in 1999 and 2000 have been
added to the collection (Series II, boxes 149, 150) but are unprocessed at this date.
Lost cities of Asia: Ceylon, Burma, Cambodia. London:
Cities of Mughul India: Delhi, Agra, Fatehpur Sikri.
London: Elek, 1968.
The late middle ages. London: Elek, 1977 (2
Castles of Europe: from Charlemagne to the
. London: Elek, 1970.
Art in the Hellenistic age. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1986.
Brooke, Christopher and Roger Highfield.
Oxford & Cambridge. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1988.
Tibet. London: Elek, 1967.
Thebes of the Pharaohs. London: Elek, 1965.
1927: Born Willem Albertus Swaan September 6 in South
1950: Bachelor of Architecture, University of the Witwatersrand,
1950-1951: Travelled in Europe and worked for Maxwell
Fry and Jane Drew in London on the University of Ibadan, Nigeria.
1952-1960: Returned to South Africa. Worked for Andrews
and Niegeman in Cape Town. Moved to H. H. Le Roith and Partners, Johannesburg,
first as an employee, later as partner in charge of design. Projects: apartment
buildings, schools, industrial and commercial buildings.
1958: Master of Architecture, University of the Witwatersrand,
Johannesburg. Thesis: "Low-cost housing: a survey of economic and sub-economic
housing for the lower-income groups with special reference to housing European
families with children in South Africa," written while Swaan worked as a
full-time architect for Le Roith and Partners. Later attended the Yale School
of Organization and Management and the Harvard University Graduate School of
1959-1960: Studied Zen Buddhism and researched Japanese
architecture and landscape design at Chotokuin Zen Temple, Kyoto.
1960: Emigrated to London.
1963: Moved to the United States.
1963-1966: Joined Perkins and Will Architects, New
1966: Became a United States citizen.
1966-1968: Sabbatical in Europe.
1971-1972: Eighteen month tour of Europe.
1972-1981: Partner at Perkins and Will.
1975-1981: Vice President at Perkins and
1981: Director of Health Facilities Planning in Hellmuth, Obata and
Kassabaum's New York office. Oversaw the new Veterans Administration Hospital,
Manhattan, addition, and other large health facilities located throughout the
1990: Received a special citation from the American Institute of
Architects for distinguished achievement as a historian and photographer of the
art and architecture created by diverse cultures throughout the world.
1994: Retired as Director of Design at Architecture for Health,
Science and Commerce, Tarrytown, NY.
1995: Died October 1 of pulmonary fibrosis.
Scope and Content of Collection
A comprehensive collection of photographs, ca. 34,453 black and white negatives, contact
prints and enlargements and ca. 13,453 color transparencies and prints, by a
self-taught photographer and practicing architect who traveled widely and
published many large-format books devoted to the art and architecture of
ancient and disappearing cultures. Included are some letters with publishers, agents, colleagues and friends, sales statements,
his notes, a manuscript, and a copy of his master's thesis.
Most images, taken in situ between 1951-1995,
reflect Swaan's interest in facades, architectural details and decoration.
Strong pictorial subjects include Gothic, Medieval, Baroque and Renaissance
Europe, Islamic Spain and Morocco, Turkey, Egypt and Iran, Ancient Egypt and Greece, Asia,
including India, Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal, Japan, Cambodia and Sri Lanka,
Pre-Columbian and Colonial Latin America, and the landscape of the American
Acropolis (Athens, Greece)
Decoration and ornament, Architectural
Decoration and ornament, Islamic
Extinct cities—Asia, Southeastern
Hundred Years War, 1339-1453
Landscape photography—West (U.S.)
Medici, House of
Acropolis (Athens, Greece)
Copán Site (Honduras)
Japan—Social life and customs
Machu Picchu Site (Peru)
Mecca (Saudi Arabia)
San Agustín (Huila, Columbia)—Antiquities
South Africa—Pictorial works
Susa (Extinct city)—Antiquities
Thebes (Egypt : Extinct city)
Tikal Site (Guatamala)
Tiwanaku Site (Bolivia)
University of Cambridge—Pictorial works
University of Oxford—Pictorial works
Genres and Forms of Material
Black-and-white prints (photographs)
Diffusion transfer prints
Castles of Europe : from Charlemagne to the Renaissance
Medici : a great Florentine family
Isfahan, pearl of Persia
Oxford and Cambridge
Age of Plantagenet and Valois : the struggle for supremacy, 1328-1498
Flemish cities; their history and art : Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, Brussels
Cities of Mughul India : Delhi, Agra and Fatehpur Sikri
Morocco : Marrakesh, Fez, Rabat
Thebes of the Pharaohs : pattern for every city
Constantinople from Byzantium to Istanbul
Moorish Spain : Cordoba, Seville, Granada
Lost cities of Asia : Ceylon, Pagan, Angkor
Late Middle Ages : art and architecture from 1350 to the advent of the Renaissance
Tibet : land of snows
Baroque and Rococo architecture and decoration